North Stars Academy
When you look at the profile of David Ferrari, you see the young Australian has a great love and affinity for Alberta, Canada.
David left the shores of Australia for Calgary when he was 20 years old. He first went there for a year on a working holiday however that year flew by and he found myself making friends and enjoying the laid back lifestyle, one of the many things that draws young Australians to Canada.
Around this he found a company, Forzani Sports, that was willing to sponsor him for a longer term working visa and a chain of events was set in motion.
Not long after that, Ferrari met Dean Holden, the then coach of the University of Calgary Women’s hockey team. Dean understood the young Aussies passion for hockey and took him under his wing and got him involved with Hockey Alberta. Dean was a great mentor for Hockey Alberta and also had an extensive coaching resume, something that would resonate with Ferrari in years to come.
Calgary was a great city for Ferrari, it was small for him compared to Melbourne but had everything he wanted. Being a wealthy city thanks to the oil and gas presence, work was easy to find and for a young hockey loving Australian it was loaded with quality hockey.
Ferrari found Calgarians very similar to Australians in many aspects. The ski hills of Banff which are close to Calgary, draw a large number of Australians each year, so Calgarians are pretty familiar with Aussies.
One thing that Ferrari loved was that Calgary in Summer feels just like Australia and everyone is out to have a good time, especially during Calgary Stampede.
Yet it was more than just having a good time. Ferrari was surrounded by people who loved his sport as much as he did and had access to facilities which were world class. “One thing I loved was that Calgarians are knowledgeable and passionate hockey fans. They have a great facility in the Mark McPhail Centre ran by Winsport, which is part of the Canadian Olympic Park Precinct”.
In Camrose Alberta, Ferrari had worked as a Technical Support person with Hockey Alberta, during their High Performance 1 Week-long seminars between 2007 & 2009. During this time the coaching bug was starting to bite.
For three seasons (2009 to 2012), Ferrari also worked as Assistant Coach & Assistant Director of player development for the Drumheller Dragons in the Alberta Junior Hockey league for three seasons from 2009-2012. He worked and is close friends with the owner of NXT Level Sports, a hockey training company out of Cochrane AB that does a lot of work in Calgary.
In 2011, Ferrari returned to Australia to play in the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) with the Newcastle North Stars and saw the quality of the league had progressed dramatically. Ferrari started thinking there was a need for a development program that bridged the gap between the Advanced Development Programs, ran by most rinks and the next level, the AJIHL and AIHL. The idea of the North Stars Academy was born.
“I played for the Melbourne Ice in 2004 and was impressed at how far the league had come since then. I watched a lot of minor hockey games and practices in my first season here and noticed that there was a massive gap in individual skill development. The practices that I witnessed were often run poorly or with no purpose. Since 2011 the need for a dedicated development program had become clearer in my mind but it was hard to set up a program here simply because I lived in Calgary. After 9 years in Calgary, I knew I had a big decision to make”.
The North Stars Academy, based at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium in Newcastle has a number of highly qualified coaches who share their knowledge and skills with eager young minds. The likes of Jeff Martens and Kim Couper, who are in Australia for the 2013 AIHL season have joined John Kennedy Jr, Olivier Martin and Ferrari himself in running weekly sessions which target power skating, advanced development sessions, a goalie and shooters session and even school holiday hockey camps.
This dedicated development can only be good for Australian Hockey. An increase in skill levels can already be seen in players attending the North Stars Academy. Ferrari states, “NSA is “powered by” NXT Level Sports and they have a large influence on how we teach our players here, and from what we have seen so far, the program has been embraced by the hockey players from Newcastle and the Central Coast”.
The number of Australian players who are making the pilgrimage to play College Hockey in Canada is slowly increasing and the dream of having an Australian play in the NHL is slowly getting closer.
Ferrari would love to see one of his NSA members lining up for the Calgary Hitmen or the Calgary Flames in future years and when this happens, the idea that was born in Alberta all those years ago will have come full circle and the connection and affinity with Calgary will continue.